SunPower plotting next-gen gigawatt-scale fab

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

Major PV energy provider (PVEP), SunPower Corp, has revealed it is prepping plans for its next-generation ‘Fab 5’ manufacturing facility that would be on a larger scale than existing facilities.

The plant will be built as part of a major capacity expansion planned for 2015, once a new plant in the Philippines is complete.

Management had said in a conference call to discuss fourth quarter 2013 financial results that it had reeled in tool install dates for its new 350MW plant in the Philippines to the end of 2014, mainly due to a decision to install the first line that will use its existing technology platform. The facility had originally been planned to house its next major cell (Gen 3) technology upgrades for its ‘X Series’ modules.

Thomas Werner, CEO and President of Sunpower said: “The first line pair will be the existing technology, the second two line pairs will be advancements on our existing technology platform which will allow us to increase the efficiency of the product and take steps out so that we can get cost down. To think of the fab, the way we think of it is, the first two lines being one build and the second set being a new platform. And so materially we’ll get out, put out the first two lines next year and start seeing the new technology towards the end of 2015.”

Although the company had been the first major PV manufacturer to announce new-build facilities after two years of industry overcapacity, the 350MW Philippines fab represented only a small incremental increase in capacity for the company, while other competitors such as JinkoSolar and Canadian solar have already added similar capacity levels in existing facilities. Others such as Yingli Green and Renesola have both added around 1GW of outsourced capacity in the last 12 months.

Finlay Colville, Vice-President at NPD Solarbuzz told PV Tech: “The situation is harder for the SunPowers of this world, with about a 12-month lag in having any significant new capacity up and running. If things start to hot up on the capex front in the second half of 2014, SunPower’s only option would be to increase rebranding of third-party supply of lower-spec modules. Therefore, almost by default, SunPower has to be first off the blocks in announcing any new multi-gigawatt capacity for 2015 and beyond, assuming module supply is to be dominated by premium spec modules.”

The cautious fab capacity expansion, given the fact that SunPower is running current facilities at 100% utilisation and expects that to continue through 2014, means the company is capacity constrained and has limited ability to increase revenue, except by margin improvement through lower manufacturing costs and higher ASPs.

According to Colville, “As an indication of how sensitive an issue capex was in 2013, the uptick in module capacity additions by Chinese players at the end of 2013 was pretty much kept under wraps,” added Colville. “Within China, however, our analyst team was learning of Chinese equipment suppliers of module tools being sold out with multi-GW backlogs. Some of the orders got through to European tool suppliers that pushed out press releases on this quickly. So, we can say that the first part of the c-Si chain to reach the effective capacity point was for modules.”

Fab 5

However, Werner also noted in the call that plans were being drawn up for its next major expansion phase after the Philippines fab is operational in 2015.

“In terms of another fab, yes our team is looking at where we would take that new technology from those last two line pairs [in the Philippines fab] and build that in much larger scale at a fifth fab, and so yes we’re doing the work to decide where we would do the fifth fab and it would be a larger fab on that new technology,” added Werner.

Currently, SunPower’s largest facility is Fab 3 in Malaysia with a nameplate capacity of over 1GW, though curiously the company has yet to install and ramp that facility to full capacity with JV partner, AU Optronics Corp.

SunPower’s Fab 5 could therefore easily be at the gigawatt-scale and above as the company continues to focus on next-generation solar cell technology and the need to drive manufacturing costs down for the technology to be cost competitive.

The move by SunPower to consider its next major capacity expansion and capital expenditure phase could spark a wave of competitors in China to announce similar plans.

“With no obvious next-generation c-Si technology available to choose from – and in fact no PV technology roadmap being used – the next round of new capacity is more likely to benefit from economy-of-scale issues, rather than new technology buys,” noted Colville.

“But the days of gigawatt market leaders limping through adding a couple of hundred megawatts here and there will also be things of the past soon. Multi-gigawatt fabs from the Chinese c-Si leaders are likely to emerge as soon as they get over the stigma associated with announcing long-term spending on fab capacity. And, of course, assuming the climate in China for its PV leaders to be seen to get access to the capital required is deemed acceptable both inside and outside of China.”

22 September 2021
To commemorate the World Energy Storage Day(WESD) on 22 September, being recognized worldwide, Customized Energy Solutions (CES) and India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) is organising the 5th global conference and virtual expo, which will be held virtually on 22 September 2021. WESD is a global movement initiated by various apex trade bodies working to promote and adopt energy storage, e-mobility & green hydrogen technologies for a sustainable future. The forthcoming edition of WESD is expected to attract global participation with an intent to facilitate bi-lateral trade, market development and new research and innovation, which will invite 100+ countries, 100+ regulators & policy makers, 100+ International speakers,1000+ organisations, 100+ partners & exhibitors and 20,000+ global delegates.
28 September 2021
Solar Solutions International is the largest trade show for solar energy in Northwest Europe. Now the solar market has grown up, it's time for the next step. Solar Solutions International displays more than 500 innovations and over 100 practical seminars concerning the latest in energy storage, smart products, and an ever evolving array of solar panels. As an exclusively B2B trade show, Solar Solutions International offers both exhibitors and visitors the chance to network at the highest level. Duurzaam Verwarmd, the largest trade show for sustainable HVAC technology in the Benelux, is held simultaneously. This way your one visit gets you up to date with all of the developments in both sustainable energy and heating.
6 October 2021
Intersolar Europe is the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry. It takes place as part of The smarter E Europe – the continent’s largest platform for the energy industry. Under the motto “Connecting solar business,” manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, service providers and project planners and developers from around the world meet in Munich every year to discuss the latest developments and trends, explore innovations firsthand and meet potential new customers.
6 October 2021
The future is bright for a new era of US solar and storage, and the 8th annual Solar & Storage Finance Summit will provide opportunities to discuss solutions to the industry’s challenges and provide a networking platform designed to bring together the top minds in the industry to do business. With a mix of high-level, informative presentations and panels, a stellar cast of speakers and audience members with deal-making capacity, the 2021 edition of the event will be a sell-out success.
18 October 2021
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil on October 18–20, 2021, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry.
19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.

Read Next

September 17, 2021
BP, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Masdar have partnered up to develop low carbon hydrogen hubs and create decarbonised air travel corridors between the UK and UAE in a deal that will see “billions” of dollars of investment.
September 17, 2021
US utility company Dominion Energy Virginia has proposed 15 new energy projects totalling 1GW of power for the state, which Dominion Energy claimed was the largest group of projects to be submitted to the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC)
September 17, 2021
Renewables developer Ørsted has promoted Neil O'Donovan to CEO of its onshore business unit following the resignation of his predecessor in August.
September 17, 2021
A 58.5MW floating PV plant in Thailand, said to be the largest install of its kind in the country, has been connected to the grid, according to inverter and floating solutions supplier Sungrow.
PV Tech Premium
September 17, 2021
PV Tech spoke to investors and analysts about why Brazil is fast becoming an attractive market for solar investment.
September 16, 2021
Vistra Energy has welcomed the enactment of clean energy policies in Illinois which the power generation company said will support 300MW of solar and 150MW of battery storage to be built at nine of its coal plant sites. 

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021